DENVER – A matchup between two of the best in the West did not disappoint in Denver Sunday night. A game that featured 14 ties and 19 lead changes tilted the way of the home team in the end, as the Nuggets secured a 116-113 victory behind 19,520 at Pepsi Center.
“It was a good game,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “The turning point of the game was they got hot in the third quarter, went 6-for-7 from three. We made a nice run to finish the quarter. It was a very competitive game. Unlike the first game we played them were we got down big, it was a close game throughout. Disappointing to lose two close games to them.”
The Trail Blazers are now 26-18 overall and 8-11 on the road this season. The loss ends a four-game winning streak for the Blazers and extends Denver’s winning streak versus Portland to five games.
Portland put up a valiant effort in a difficult environment. The Nuggets have now won 12 straight home games, and their 18-3 record in the Mile High City is the best home mark in the NBA.
The Trail Blazers raced out to a 17-8 lead, their largest of the game, midway through the first quarter. The Nuggets climbed back and pushed ahead by six, 42-36, early in the second period before the scoreboard settled on 60-58 Trail Blazers at halftime.
After a tight first half that saw six ties and six lead changes, the Nuggets took the first double-digit lead of the night for either team thanks to a 15-5 run that pushed the home team’s advantage to 93-83 with 36 seconds to play in the third quarter.
But Portland responded by scoring 11 straight points to take a lead of one early in the fourth, setting up an anxious final period for the home crowd.
After six more lead chances and four more ties, with the end result being a 114-110 lead after a Jamal Murray floater with 30 seconds to play, CJ McCollum, who scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half, hit a corner three that narrowed the lead to a single point at 114-113 with 27.7 seconds remaining.
McCollum fouled Jamal Murray on an offensive rebound attempt on Denver’s ensuing possession. After Murray made both fouls shots, Lillard’s game-tying effort from long distance rimmed off as the buzzer sounded.
“Once we lined up and I saw how they were just kind of lined up around the three-point line — they knew that we had to get up a three, we didn’t have no time to get a quick two and, without timeouts, try to play that game,” said Lillard. “I knew it would be tough look but we didn’t have no timeouts, we had to get it in and get a shot up. That’s pretty much what it was.”
Lillard led five Trail Blazers in double figures with 26 points (8-8 FT) to go with a team-best seven assists.
Nikola Jokic scored a season-high 40 points (15-23 FG, 4-7 3-PT), one shy of a career mark.
“Jokic is a hell of a player,” said Stotts. “He’s a difficult guard. Scores inside, scores outside, he passes. We didn’t do a very good job with him tonight, no matter who was on him.”
He added 10 rebounds and eight assists in a near triple-double effort. Murray added 24 points.
• Jusuf Nurkic scored 12 points, his 10th consecutive game in double figures. Nurkic averages more points (18.4) against his former team than any other NBA opponent.
• Evan Turner (13 points, 4-5 FG, 5-6 FT) scored in double digits for the fourth time in the last five games.
• Jake Layman (13 points, 5-6 FG) scored in double figures for the sixth time this season, and third time in the last six games. In those past six games, Layman has scored at least nine points five times.
• Zach Collins matched a career high with two 3-pointers made in scoring eight points.
• Paul Milsap finished with 11 points and six rebounds in 27 minutes. Malik Beasley went 3-of-5 from the three and finished with 13 points in 37 minutes. Monte Morris came off the bench to score 10.
• The Nuggets shot 55.6% from the field, their second-best mark of the season. The Trail Blazers shot 46.0% from the field and made 21 of their 22 free throw attempts.
• Portland turned the ball over just nine times, their third game in the last five with nine turnovers. Denver finished with 11 turnovers.
“One or two plays made the difference down the stretch and they made them and we didn’t. So we end up with the L tonight, we see them two more times and we’ve got to move on to the one tomorrow.” — Damian Lillard
The Trail Blazers finish off a quick all-road back-to-back Monday night by playing the Sacramento Kings Monday night at Golden1 Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m